I have been tagged by the Run Faster blog with a running meme, so I thought that I would take the opportunity to answer a few questions about myself that you will hopefully find interesting and useful to your own running. Hopefully you will be able to either relate with these anecdotes or learn something new, and if not then I at least hope that you find some small amount of amusement.

How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

Ten years ago this month was wildly different than 10 years next month; I was on the cusp of a level of training that I had never even considered or dreamed of. I was training through the Summer months between high school graduation and my freshman year in college, and I had no direction and no idea what to expect when I got there.

My main concern was to get my mileage up. In high school, I doubt that I ever ran more than 35 miles per week, and I have no doubt that I usually ran much less than that. I had not yet become obsessive compulsive about tracking my training at that point.

I knew that 35 miles per week just was not going to cut it, so my goal was to raise my mileage up to around 60 to 65 miles per week. By late July or mid-August, I was consistently getting that level of training in, as well as working full time in Sales Promotions for Merrill Lynch and getting over to the bowling alley for a few rounds after work most days.

Once I got to college, I only ran 85 miles the first week because I missed a few workouts due to freshman obligations. I spent the next few years running between 85-95 miles most weeks, topping out a couple of times at just over 120 miles and not infrequently running 100-105 miles, especially early in each season.

That high mileage built a great base for me, but my college coach had a completely different style of coaching than I was used to from my high school coach.

What is your best and worst run/race experience?

My best running experience is a lot easier to choose this year than it would have been last year. Breaking the tape at the Cox Sports Marathon gave me my first course record, for which I am very proud.

The race left a lot to be desired, and I ran alone for a good chunk of the race, but I had a lot of fun and have many fond memories from the race. I knew 2 miles into it that I was going to win, despite there being no real evidence to that effect at that early point in the race. It was great to validate my confidence in myself and to follow through with my goals.

More importantly, the training for that race was by far some of the best winter training that I have ever done, and was the heaviest workload that I’ve managed since graduating from college. I’m actually looking forward to next Winter and running the snow for months on end again.

My worst experience running is a little more difficult to decide. Even when I’ve been completely miserable during the run, I have learned something and had a story to tell in my training log afterwards. Even times when I was frozen solid are now looked back on with fond memories.

If I had to choose one, though, my worst experience would have to be one of two worst injuries that I’ve had.

Tendonitis and a stress fracture in college left me unable to walk for about a month, and while I raced my way back onto the varsity squad by the end of the season I had no emotional investment in the team that season and that was hard to take. I did get a lot of good cross training in, though, and I used that as a base for my first marathon.

My other major injury was a few years earlier, when I fell down the side of a mountain during a cross country race and broke my ankle. The meet fell between the conference and state championships, and was an annual race where we competed against a few of the much larger schools in the state. It rained all morning, and my coach told me that he’d sit the varsity squad if it didn’t let up so that we don’t get hurt. No sooner said, and the clouds went away.

We got to the park, and the race course was great. Lots of steep hills on trails through the woods. Unfortunately, I stepped on a leaf that must have been hiding a twig or a hole or something, I never knew what.

The next thing that I knew I was sliding down the trail on my face, which I decided was a bad idea so I got my shoulder down and rolled the rest of the way. One of my teammates hurdled me, but 2 or 3 of the guys on the other teams managed to get me with their spikes before I rolled off the course and waited to be taken the rest of the way down the trail.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was that I was looking forward to chatting up a girl after the race that I knew, but she was on the other side of a creek and I couldn’t walk.

I refused to admit the ankle was broken for the next few days, since I was convinced that I’d be able to race in the state meet. My elephant foot belied that belief, though. A childhood friend of mine from the opposite end of the state was also injured, so at least we got to hang out and hobble around cheering on our teammates with our crutches.

Why do you run?

I explored why I run a couple of years ago, and the answer basically boils down to 2 things.

First, running is an addiction and I get antsy any time that I have to take time off. I have tried tempering my withdrawal symptoms through cross training, but even that doesn’t prove to be 100% effective. Any time that I stop running I also stop eating, which means that I very quickly shed weight that then takes me months (and sometimes years) to regain.

The second reason that I run is because I am a competitive person, and this is a safe and effective way for me to feed that side of my nature. I find it physically and emotionally painful to lose a race, especially when I am racing somebody that is at or near the same level as myself.

I am constantly looking for the next challenge. I have historically been a mediocre runner at the levels that I compete at, so as I begin to find success I am constantly searching for a more competitive atmosphere.

Thankfully, I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, because many of my current teammates are much more talented than I am. There is a good mix of youth and experience, with guys that can beat me handily who are 5 or 6 years younger than me or over 20 years older than me. They give me good role models that I can learn from and compete with.

What is the best or worst piece of advice you’ve been given about running?

The worst piece of advice is directly related to the best piece of advice about running. In my early and formative years, I was often told that long, slow distance makes for long, slow runners and for 2 years that meant that I was in some of the best physical shape that I have ever known.

Then I got injured. Then I got injured again.

The best advice I’ve been given is that every workout has a purpose, and the purpose of most workouts is to run slow in order to force adaptations and encourage recovery without overly stressing my body.

What is something surprising about yourself that not many people would know?

I met my wife at a small park here in Portland, Maine while I was running an 800 meter workout and she was stretching on a park bench. I stopped and chatted with her for a few minutes and invited her to join the workout, and it wasn’t until after the second repeat and I saw her milling around in the crowd that I realized that the woman that I had been talking to was actually young and very cute.

I don’t know why I was so preoccupied that I didn’t notice when she was stretching on the park bench; maybe she had her hat over her face and didn’t look up much, or maybe the sun was in my eyes, or maybe I’m just a moron sometimes.

When the workout was over, though, I’m glad that she just happened to continue her run in the direction that she saw everybody cooling down in. It gave me a few minutes to chat with her and things went well from there.